Designed by Bob Clouser
Hook: Mustad S71SZ-34007 #2-#8
Thread: 6/0 White or Uni-Mono
Eyes: Real Eyes Plus, Yellow with Black Pupil
Belly: Bucktail or Polar Bear, White
Flash: Crystal Flash UV Pearl and Chartreuse
Back: Bucktail or Polar Bear, Chartreuse
Tying Note: Tie the Clouser Deep Minnow in a variety of color combinations and sizes to match a variety of forage fish in both fresh and saltwater.
With the explosion in popularity of saltwater fly-fishing, there has been a corresponding increase in the number and quality of associated fly patterns. Baitfish patterns are by far the most common type. Rightfully so, as practically all predatory fish prefer Sushi in their diets.
Bob Clouser’s Deep Minnow is probably the best saltwater baitfish pattern in use today; with over 80 species to its credit. Lefty Kreh rates the Clouser Minnow as the best saltwater fly available today, higher even than his famed Deceiver. From a personal perspective I have my own Clouser species list including Pacific salmon, trout, smallmouth bass, pike, walleye, carp, freshwater drum even channel catfish. When it comes to chasing west coast Coho, a chartreuse and white Clouser is tough to beat. It makes an excellent needlefish imitation.
Ironically, Bob Clouser designed his Deep Minnow for smallmouth bass on the Susquehanna River, a Mississippi tributary. In the early 70’s, Bob began experimenting with split shot crimped onto the shank to replicate the pitching motion of a jig. With the advent of dumbbell eyes during the mid 80’s the foundation for the Deep Minnow was complete. Dumbbell eyes inverted the fly reducing the risk of hang-ups but more importantly provided the seductive jigging action Bob was looking for. The Clouser is always in a constant state of motion, whether stripped or diving as it pauses. Combined with its sparse wings the dumbbell eyes of a Clouser Minnow provides a fleeting glimpse of a darting baitfish, exactly like the naturals.
There is wide variety of dumbbell eye styles to choose from depending upon the suggested quarry or the conditions your Clouser is facing. Plain dumbbell eyes can be hand painted in a variety of pupil and iris combinations. If hand painting is not your thing many suppliers offer premade dumbbells in a variety of pupil and iris combinations. Conversely, dumbbells with recessed eye sockets allow you to insert your own adhesive eyes. For Clouser’s intended for use in skinny water you can use aluminum dumbbells. Bead chain makes an excellent set of eyes for smaller lightweight Clouser’s.
Eye placement is critical to proper Clouser construction as it effects how the fly pitches and darts in the water. To begin, form a small thread bump 1/3 back from the hook eye. Place the eye stem at the rear of the bump and secure in place using a series of figure eight wraps. With the eyes secure, place a series of horizontal wraps under the eyes but above the hook shank, as if posting a wing or parachute post. Apply tension after each horizontal turn to gather and tighten the figure eight wraps. The finished eyes must not move. A dap of super glue provides additional security. When building a series of Deep Minnows, lash all the eyes onto the hooks, production style before proceeding.
Bucktail is the traditional Clouser Minnow belly and back material. Hair from the top two thirds of the tail works best. Avoid the bottom third. This hair tends to be hollow, flaring under thread pressure. Select a pencil-sized clump of bucktail. Stand the bucktail perpendicular to the hide to stack and even the tips. Trim the clump flush with the hide. Pinch the tips and remove any short fibres. The best Clouser’s are sparse. Avoid using too much bucktail. You can use a hair stacker to even the bucktail tips but it is not necessary. A somewhat ragged edge to the fly works best. A hair stacker is handy when blending bucktail. Place the varying colors in the hair stacker and mix using a narrow instrument such as a bodkin or tooth pick. As with single colors, remember to maintain a reduced volume.
There is a variety of bucktail substitutes available today. Polar bear is an excellent choice for saltwater Clouser’s, but is not always easy to obtain in suitable quality or length. Synthetic materials such as Super Hair are tough to beat for long Clouser’s or when pursuing toothy aggressive fish. Calf tail, marabou, rabbit fur or fox works for micro Clouser’s, size 6 or smaller.
Typical back and belly material length is two and one half times the shank. Tie the belly hair half way between the hook eye and the dumbbell eyes. Once in place, secure the hair between the eyes and down the shank using open thread wraps, even with the hook point. Advance the thread forward to the original tie in point. Invert the fly in preparation for tying in the back of the fly. A rotary vise is ideal. Remember, a Clouser rides inverted so get the color combinations correct. Prepare the back hair in the same manner as the belly. The volume of back hair can be slightly more than the belly but do not over due it. Tie in the back hair in at the same point as the belly hair but do not secure it down the shank as with the belly hair.
Most Deep Minnows contain an element of flash. For most of my Clouser Minnows, I prefer a combination of Crystal Hair and Flashabou. Crystal Flash trimmed in a staggered fashion provides attractive highlights throughout the fly. Flashabou or SuperFlash shimmers and when trimmed slightly longer than the belly or back creates an appealing flash tail. Prior to tying in the back hair, secure in the flash materials just back from the hook eye and secure back to the belly hair tie in point. Some tiers bind the flash materials down the sides of their Clouser’s to suggest the lateral line. The choice is up to you. Keep the flash the subtle. The best Clouser’s have a hint of flash. They should not resemble a Las Vegas street sign.
Most predatory fish posses sharp teeth. Once complete, it is a good idea to reinforce the finished fly using epoxy or Tuffleye acrylic. Coat the head, eyes and belly hair between the eyes and down the top of the shank to protect the securing thread wraps. Create a sleek tapered head, bridging the area between the thread head and eyes.
Since its original inception, the Clouser has spawned a number of variations. Lefty Kreh and Bob Clouser blended the back half of a Deceiver with the front end of a Deep Minnow to create a Half N’ Half. This combination makes an excellent long skinny fly. Jay Mohl created an articulated Clouser, trimming the hook point and adding a small braided loop, Intruder style. This stinger Clouser is the perfect response to short striking Coho. Adding a long rabbit strip tail creates a Clouser with unparalleled action. If you ever get the opportunity to chase pike on the fly this variation is magic.
I appreciate Bob Clouser’s minimalist approach to flies and fly design. A philosophy I find myself following with increasing regularity. In addition to his Deep Minnow Bob has created a number of simple innovative patterns. Interested tiers should pick up a copy of Clouser’s Flies. It is an excellent reference.
1) Cover the hook shank with tying thread. Form a small thread ball 1/3 back from the hook eye.
2) Using figure eight wraps secure a set of dumbbell eyes at the rear of the thread bump. Place a series of horizontal wraps under the dumbbell eyes and above the hook shank to gather and tighten the thread wraps. Place a drop of super glue on the thread wraps for added security. The eyes should not move.
3) Stand a pencil sized clump of bucktail fibres perpendicular to the hide to even the tips. Trim the bucktail clump from the hide. Pinch and hold the bucktail fibres by the tips and remove any short fibres. Even the stack by hand, avoid using a hair stacker. Measure the prepared stack so it is 2˝ times the shank length and trim the butts on a slight angle towards the hook eye. Tie in the bucktail half way between the hook eye and the dumbbell eyes. Secure the bucktail back over the dumbbell eyes and along the shank just forward of the hook point. The finished wing should be sparse and tuck along the shank.
4) Invert the fly. Secure six to eight strands of UV Pearl and Light Olive Crystal Flash by doubling it around the tying thread and tying it in place just back from the hook eye. Secure the Crystal Flash in place with a few wraps of thread back to the belly hair tie in location. Stagger cut the Crystal Flash so it shimmers throughout the fly. Make sure a few Crystal Flash strands extend past the tips of the bucktail wing forming a flash tail.
5) Prepare and hand stack a clump of chartreuse bucktail slightly thicker than the initial clump. Measure the bucktail so it is the same length as the white belly hair. Trim the butts on a slight angle towards the hook eye. Tie in the bucktail half way between the hook eye and the dumbbell eyes. Do not secure the chartreuse bucktail back over the dumbbell eyes.
6) Cover the butts with tying thread and trim any errant fibres. Build a neat tapered head and whip finish. Coat the head, the white bucktail between the eyes and down the shank with Tuffleye acrylic. Activate the Tuffleye using the curing lamp. Epoxy may also be used.